Rise and Shine: July 2, 2020

It’s the Thursday before the July 4th weekend, CivMixers, and I’m betting that more than a few of us are probably already on vacation.

Good for you. Some of us toil in obscurity. (Sniff). Please eat an extra hot dog for me.

Two historical notes worth mentioning….

On this day in 1947, an object crashed near Roswell, NM. The U.S. Army Air Force insisted it was a weather balloon, but eyewitness accounts led to speculation that it might have been an alien spacecraft.

Roswell, according to our friends at Wikipedia, has been described as “the world’s most famous, most exhaustively investigated, and most thoroughly debunked UFO claim.” I’m sure there are still some true believers out there who are composing hate emails to me as I write this sentence.

Due to the Roswell crash, today is observed by some as World UFO Day. Others apparently prefer to observe on June 24. Whichever your preference, it’s a day to raise awareness of the existence (according believers) about the existence of UFOs and to encourage governments to declassify their files on UFO sightings.

Twenty years later, on this day in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the “Civil Rights Act of 1964” into law, making it illegal in the U.S. to discriminate against others because of their race.

The Civil Rights Act prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, and racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations. Of course, we’re still fighting this battle, and true equality continues to elude our society.

OK, here’s one more: Today is the anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Mary Earhart, born July 24, 1897, who was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

In 1937, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan attempted to circumnavigate the globe in a Lockheed Model 10-E Electra plane. On July 2, 1937, the two disappeared somewhere over the central Pacific Ocean, never to be seen again.

It’s going to be very hot today, with temperatures in the low 90s. We’ll see a mix of sun and clouds and a stray shower or thunderstorm could pop up.

In the headlines…

The number of new U.S. coronavirus cases surpassed 50,000 in a single day for the first time ever yesterday, propelled by record rises in some of the most populous states, including California and Texas.

Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center, which tracks the virus worldwide, says the total number of cases reported in the U.S. stands at 2,686,480 – an increase over Tuesday’s figure of 50,700. Deaths attributed to the coronavirus stand at 128,062.

A frightening new study reveals that food shortages and healthcare disruptions due to the COVID-19 outbreak potentially could lead to the deaths of 1.2 million babies in 118 nations.

President Donald Trump continued to profess the belief that the disease will “sort of just disappear” even as Arizona, California and Texas are reporting record rises in cases and curtailing reopening plans.

Even as some conservatives and libertarians have made opposition to masks a political cause, Republican governors and others in their party are suddenly trying to send a different message as the pandemic has hit hard in their home states, ending any notion that the coronavirus is not a real menace.

Vice President Mike Pence is wearing a mask regularly now.

Trump said that he would have “no problem” wearing a face mask in public in certain circumstances – a pivot from his months-long refusal to wear a mask in public at events where social distancing was not always observed.

However, the president stopped short of supporting a nationwide order to make them mandatory in public because there are “many places in the country where people stay very long distance.”

The Trump administration plans to adopt a decades-old testing strategy called “pooled testing” that will vastly increase the number of coronavirus tests performed in the United States and permit widespread tracking of the virus as it surges across the country.

Hundreds of thousands of seriously ill coronavirus patients who survive and leave the hospital are facing a new and difficult challenge: recovery, which can include ongoing physical, neurological, cognitive and emotional issues.

Trump said that he supports another round of direct payments to Americans – and claimed he wants to give out more money than Democrats have already proposed – but it has to be “done properly.”

The House passed an extension of the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program fewer than 24 hours after the program shut its doors, moving one step closer to reopening the cornerstone small business coronavirus relief effort. The bill now heads to Trump’s desk.

…The president has not yet indicated whether he will sign it, although his administration has been vocally supportive of the program.

A divide has reportedly emerged inside Trump’s inner circle over whether he should turn his attention back to the coronavirus pandemic or continue to focus on reopening the economy.

Iowa has become the first in the nation to permanently allow bars to sell booze to-go — a popular service that was supposed to be temporary to help watering holes survive the coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus outbreak across the U.S. is getting worse and could threaten New York’s recovery after stringent lockdowns across the state helped suppress the fast-spreading infection, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, adding: “We have to be careful. We have dark clouds on the horizon and we’ve made tremendous progress.”

New York City will postpone indoor dining indefinitely, de Blasio said, citing soaring infection rates tied to bars and restaurants in a growing number of U.S. states. New Jersey made the same decision earlier this week.

Cuomo chided de Blasio and other local officials for not doing enough insure that residents were abiding social distancing rules. “Citizen compliance is slipping,”” he said. “Local government has to step up and do their job,” the governor said, adding that “it’s much worse” in New York City.

McDonald’s is pausing the reopening of dine-in service in the U.S. as coronavirus cases continue to spread across states. The burger giant said that it would wait three weeks before any new U.S. restaurants add dine-in service to its drive-through, takeout and delivery operations.

NPC International Inc., the nation’s largest Pizza Hut and Wendy’s franchisee, filed for bankruptcy and will put its burger restaurants up for sale as it continues to hold discussions over the fate of its pizza outlets.

New York state is conducting more coronavirus tests “per capita” than any other country in the world, Cuomo said.

Several epidemiologists expressed surprise that the large protests in New York City in response to George Floyd’s death did not result in coronavirus infection spikes, and tried to explain why.

In its first four months in New York, the coronavirus tore through low-income neighborhoods. Now, evidence is emerging of another inequality affecting low-income city residents: disparities in hospital care.

A new study from the University at Albany finds that Black and Latinx communities have a much higher chance of being infected, hospitalized and dying from coronavirus than whites.

Health officials are having trouble investigating a new cluster of eight or more COVID-19 cases in Rockland County tied to a large party earlier this month, and issued subpoenas, as it did during its measles outbreak some years ago, to compel people to work with contact tracers to contain a new potential outbreak.

…Adding to the urgency of learning as much as possible about how widely the virus may have spread at the parties, officials said, was a tip from people who have cooperated about at least one more large party being planned in the area for the Fourth of July weekend.

Trump criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio over the $1 billion NYPD funding cut, saying the mayor will use the money for a Black Lives Matter street “sign” in New York City – in front of Trump Tower.

“Maybe our GREAT Police, who have been neutralized and scorned by a mayor who hates & disrespects them, won’t let this symbol of hate be affixed to New York’s greatest street. Spend this money fighting crime instead!” the president tweeted.

Cuomo also slammed the New York City Council’s move strip the New York Police Department of $1 billion in funding, but for a different reason entirely, questioning “what it means” and calling for concrete action.

“I don’t know what it means,” the governor said. “What does that mean? Does this mean I am less safe? Where did you take the billion dollars from? Does it mean I am more safe? Does it have any effect on police abuse? I don’t know what it means.”

Cuomo also referred to de Blasio’s plan to paint “Black Lives Matter” on Fifth Avenue, saying: “Painting slogans on streets, I support it. Cities all across the nation are doing it. Protests, I support it. You know what I support more? Do something. Make change. Make change.”

The governor was stumped by a reporter who asked whether lidless toilets promote the spread of the coronavirus.

State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said at a press conference that people should always close the lid when flushing a toilet — since COVID-19 can be carried in the little droplets that rise into the air after a flush — but acknowledged that it’s sometime impossible to do that in public restrooms.

Cuomo’s chief nursing home regulator is retiring after putting off his departure in part due to the pandemic. The administration reportedly is having trouble finding someone to replace him.

De Blasio announced that both his Press Secretary Freddi Goldstein and Communications Director Wiley Norvell are leaving City Hall. Bill Neidhardt, spokesman for former presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will be taking Goldstein’s place later this month.

An irate veteran New York City teacher said live instruction was all but abandoned at her son’s top high school this past school year in a scathing letter to administrators and Department of Education officials.

New York City residents produce more than a billion gallons of sewage a day and nearly every toilet is connected to the public sewer system. That wastewater tells a story about the health of the city, and officials are hoping to use it as a new way to monitor the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The New York City budget adopted early yesterday also cuts spending on cultural affairs by nearly 11 percent, a damaging blow after years where municipal spending on the arts had grown, but it was not as deep a gash as some had feared.

A three-story building in Brooklyn that housed a gym and multiple apartments collapsed suddenly yesterday afternoon, fire officials said, weeks after work was ordered to halt due to structural problems.

Three-term Upper East Side Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright – knocked off the Democratic ballot line over paperwork snafus during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic — will have an opportunity to reclaim her seat by seeking to run on an independent line under an executive order signed by Cuomo.

The expected lengthy countdown of absentee ballots in the Democratic primary for Albany County district attorney may not take so long after all. The campaigns of DA David Soares and challenger Matthew Toporowski agreed to let high-speed ballot-counting machines at the county Board of Elections tally the nearly 20,000 ballots remaining.

The chairman of the Albany County Legislature says he’s prepared to replace Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner Matt Clyne over Clyne’s refusal to wear a face mask while absentee ballots are being counted this week.

Rochester Assemblyman David Gantt, who served the Rochester area in New York state government for decades, has died. He was 78.

Opponents of recent modifications that were made to the state’s bail laws blasted police unions for making campaign contributions to elected officials, which the advocates contend may have influenced lawmakers’ decision to roll back some of the changes intended to limit the number of people incarcerated before trial.

A controversial plan to convert a historic inn in Schenectady’s Stockade into apartments was nixed by the developer hours before a zoning board vote was to take place on granting a variance for the project.

As Independence Day approaches, the Capital Region’s attractions are coming to life. And this year, with quarantines and COVID-19 hotspots popping up globally, local residents may just find this the perfect opportunity to discover and enjoy what’s right in their backyard.

Mechanicville school district leaders have changed course on the school system’s graduation ceremonies to align with the state’s rule limiting the size of gatherings amid concerns over the lingering coronavirus pandemic.

Only Rensselaer County residents will be permitted to use the county Department of Motor Vehicles office starting Monday, the county announced.

The attorney for embattled Bumpy’s Polar Freeze owner David Elmendorf denies his client is a racist and said they’ve hired a private investigator to learn why Schenectady County, who he plans to sue, and others seem to be working together to try to destroy the businessman.

Sheriff deputies said an Albany County correction officer who claimed that someone threw a lit firework into his New Scotland home over the weekend lied about the incident.

A number of City of Albany residents are stepping up to try and quell gun violence in the city after 36 people were shot, including four fatally, in June.

Two young men who admitted shooting up Albany’s South End last year in a retaliatory ambush, with one of them firing a round that tore through the arm of a toddler who was sleeping in a daycare center, were sentenced to lengthy prison terms as the little boy and his mother sat in the courtroom.

Richmond, Va., took down a statue of the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson yesterday after Mayor Levar Stoney used emergency powers to order its immediate removal, along with other Confederate statues on city property.

A New York judge temporarily blocked the publication of a controversial new book written by Trump’s niece.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party outraised Trump and the Republicans for the second straight month in June, announcing a record haul of $141 million on Wednesday night only hours after the president’s campaign had trumpeted his own $131 million total.

A massive transportation funding bill that would funnel $100 billion into transit projects passed the House yesterday, despite Republican objections that the $1.5 trillion package was really the Green New Deal in disguise.

The $1.5 trillion infrastructure package included several federal limousine safety reforms introduced after the deadly Schoharie County crash nearly two years ago.

For months, Rep. Elise Stefanik and eight other Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have skipped all but one of the committee’s hearings, sessions that have covered national security matters such as the coronavirus pandemic, online foreign influence campaigns and more.

A caravan of protesters — some wielding plastic pitchforks — descended on the Hamptons yesterday to blast the rich and decry the nation’s rising income inequality.

…More than 100 drivers and about 200 marchers paid a visit to the homes of some of the world’s wealthiest people, including ex-New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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